N-Alkanes in fresh snow in Hokkaido, Japan: Implications for ice core studies

Paula Sankelo, Kimitaka Kawamura, Osamu Seki, Hideaki Shibata, James Bendle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Plant waxes (e.g. long-chain n-alkanes) in ice cores are a promising paleovegetation proxy. However, much work needs to be done to assess how n-alkanes are transported from source areas to, and incorporated into, glacial archives. In this paper we present analyses of n-alkanes in seasonal snow and assess the information on source vegetation. n-Alkanes with carbon numbers C18 to C43 were extracted from snow samples collected at two sites in Hokkaido, northern Japan, during winter 2009-2010. Molecular distributions revealed that the majority of the n-alkanes originated from higher vegetation (ca. 65%), rather than anthropogenic sources. The distribution characteristics confirmed that the n-alkane signal had a wide regional origin, rather than a local source. We determined stable carbon and hydrogen isotopic compositions for the C27n-alkane. The δ13C of the C27 (- 28.2 to - 33.0‰) was more representative of C 3 than C4 vegetation, while the δD of the C 27 (- 169.9 to - 223.1%‰) indicated growth latitudes more northerly than Hokkaido. The n-alkanes in the snow preserve information about the source vegetation type (photosynthetic group, growth site), confirming that if deposited with seasonal snows that firnify to form glacial ice, they have potential to record broad, regional vegetation changes over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-131
Number of pages13
JournalArctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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